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Compass? Better Map?

Old 05-06-06, 11:01 PM
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Compass? Better Map?

Is there a compass you can mount to your handle bars? It is easy for me to get turned around. Also, is there a place online with maps of bike paths? The free Illinois Department of Transportation maps do not show a lot of the road names. And is there an online map site that allows you to choose roads for a route?

Thanks,

Joshua Hartman
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Old 05-07-06, 12:21 AM
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You can get a <$5 four-in-one compass, thermometer, magnifying glass, and whistle from Canadian Tire or Walmart, or sometimes dollar stores. I have mine attached to my handlebar bag, where I can refer to it as necessary.
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Old 05-07-06, 03:56 AM
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I have a compass / bicycle bell. It is designed to attach to handle bars. I got mine off of ebay for about 3 bucks.
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Old 05-07-06, 06:39 AM
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Dimension Mini Bell with Floating Compass

https://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ry_rn=11549396
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Old 05-07-06, 08:38 AM
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a compass attached to or near a hunk of ferrous metal may be innacurate;


to use a compass while biking with any degree of accuracy you need to get away from the bike by 6-10 feet.

(I just took a Silva bearing-shoot compass and checked my Trek 520 in the living room....i got needle draw from the bike starting at about 6 feet away....)
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Old 05-07-06, 04:12 PM
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My wife and I each have a bell/compass but they always seem to be pointing in opposite directions...much like us.
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Old 05-07-06, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
a compass attached to or near a hunk of ferrous metal may be innacurate;


to use a compass while biking with any degree of accuracy you need to get away from the bike by 6-10 feet.

(I just took a Silva bearing-shoot compass and checked my Trek 520 in the living room....i got needle draw from the bike starting at about 6 feet away....)

I was gonna mention that fact...

Get yourself a good lensatic compass, and learn how to use it.

You may not know where you are, but at least you'll know where you're goin!
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Old 05-07-06, 06:54 PM
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Bikepacker67 and Beko

Very sound advice! Compasses can be next to useless within several feet (read: out to about 3 meters) of ferrous metals. Used properly, especially with a map, they are excellent tools.
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Old 05-07-06, 10:08 PM
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...i could bring up the Burt Solar compass but that would be a geodesic anomaly of a sorts..... significant, however, in the history of mapping and exploration.....
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Old 05-07-06, 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by becnal
Dimension Mini Bell with Floating Compass

https://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ry_rn=11549396
I have one of these. It does tell you what general direction you are pointed.

I wouldn't expect a magnetic compass to be accurate and precise mounted to a bike. If you need real accuracy, maybe a GPS would be better than a compass. If you only need to know what direction you are pointed +/-45 degrees then the compass/bell should work and is cheap.
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Old 05-08-06, 12:13 AM
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The compass/bell that is meant to go on bike handlebars is perfectly fine for bike touring. Being off by 3 degrees doesn't mean anything.

Sheesh, people, bikes aren't for navigating across thousands of miles of ocean, fer cryin' out loud! All you need is something to tell you which road goes east and which one goes north. Sheesh!
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Old 05-08-06, 06:33 AM
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No, it is actually quite easy to get lost, on roads, relying on a compass that is right next to a bike.

I got my silva to deflect almost 90 degrees just now off the touring bike in my living room.


Compasses attached to handlebars are going to be pretty worthless, in this woodsmans opinion. I've been getting lost in the woods, bike or no bike, for over thirty years now.

Again, if you are going to be using a map and a compass to ascertain your bearings, you will need to get away from the bicycle.

A GPS may tell you where you are, but takes all the fun out of getting lost.

Last edited by Bekologist; 05-08-06 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 05-08-06, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
No, it is actually quite easy to get lost, on roads, relying on a compass that is right next to a bike.

I got my silva to deflect almost 90 degrees just now off the touring bike in my living room.


Compasses attached to handlebars are going to be pretty worthless, in this woodsmans opinion. I've been getting lost in the woods, bike or no bike, for over thirty years now.

Again, if you are going to be using a map and a compass to ascertain your bearings, you will need to get away from the bicycle.

A GPS may tell you where you are, but takes all the fun out of getting lost.
Ditto. I've gotten turned around qute a bit, too. Yesterday, in fact. Went around some country lake almost twice before noticing I had passed the same viewpoint before. Not the same as getting lost and, a cheapo would have worked for the purpose, but I would just as soon bring along a good compass.

Leave the hi-way and roads very quickly all look the same, just like trails. I have a GPS, but often it loses the signal behind hills or in the mountains, otherwise it's pretty good. Still, I like being able to use a compass and map well.
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Old 05-08-06, 10:13 AM
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Josh,

Try this site for picking roads. https://www.gmap-pedometer.com

Use hybrid view to see map and satellite images superimposed. If you use it to log paths in hybrid view, however, the program gets flakey if the path exceeds about 200 points.

The DeLorme Gazatteer is a good planning resource too. ( https://www.delorme.com/atlasgaz ) It shows contour intervals as well as the backwoods roads, dirt roads and trails that don't show up on Illinois DOT maps. I've used an enlarged copy of some sections to plan my way around a few difficult spots. You can check out a copy at your library or buy one at Borders.

Last edited by Recycle; 05-08-06 at 10:19 AM. Reason: correct misspelling
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Old 05-08-06, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
A GPS may tell you where you are, but takes all the fun out of getting lost.
You're the first person on this forum who likes getting lost!

The problem with getting lost on a bike is all the energy it takes to get back on track. In the woods, getting lost can be quite dangerous.

However, I like using my GPS because it does take the misery out of getting lost. Getting lost now is an option and not an accident. When I get off the train, I don't turn on the GPS right away but just "ride around" to see what the town looks like without really knowing where I am or going. This by the way, is often the best time of the trip!

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Old 05-08-06, 11:00 AM
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And not all GPSs have real compasses. Any GPS will tell you which way you're going, but not which way you're facing if you're stationary. This may be less of a problem in an environment with enough visual reference points, there you may be able to figure it out yourself if you know your position. If the unit has a "real" 3-axis electronic compass and you use it a lot, you will notice it in battery life too.

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Old 05-08-06, 11:48 AM
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Spend less than $ 20.00 and get a decent Silva compass. There are numerous models - even one designed to work with your GPS.

From experience - the GPS (have two) are fine and one of mine has roads for the US already in it. The problems of relying on a GPS are numerous:

Battery Life (when it goes dead there goes your "I know where I am."
If you do not really understand Map and Compass a GPS will not teach you how to stay found

Silva makes a small sphere compass with a pin that you could stick to your shirt, but I still believe that with all of the metal that any of these very small and inexpensive compass' are going to have issues with a bike.

How about we start a thread on "Navigation". It would seem obvious that we should be able to get around with a map, but I have found many maps to be quite unrealiable and if you are using a TOPO sectional you will not find any street names / identifieres. Which leads me to bring up the following term:

Dead Reckoning = Time - Speed - Distance and Heading

With the use of the appropriate map, a compass for general directions of travel (mark the headings in Magnetic bearings instead of Grid on the map after orienting the map - I'll be happy to explain how to orient a map if anyone is interested - you will have to do some reading however)

Lastly with the use of your Cyclometer you will know distance traveled and should be able to locate your position on the map quite easily. One could even back that up with "triangulation". Both "COULD" locate you within a few meters. Beleive it or not.

One thing that bothers me about the "Outdoor Goods Industry" is all of the hype about electronics (go spend $ 250.00 to 399.00 (US) on a Garmin Edge). They look nice and have some interesting features, but they will not keep you found or help you make any decisions on a route for the next day.

So, get a decent compass that has the ability to set declination. Get the appropriate map(s) for the area being traversed. Learn to and orient the map to Magnetic North (adjusted for Magnetic Declination of course = East is Least(-) and West is Best(+)). Decide on your route and make a route sheet showing expected time, distance and heading to your first, second, etc .............. waypoints (term used for a GPS as well.) and/or mark it on the map.

I believe that you will find that this new set of navigational skills to only add to the pleasure of touring.
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Old 05-08-06, 12:26 PM
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GPS fan here. I have an undergrad degree in geography and have spent many hours perusing quads and tope sheets. But I find a GPS to be wonderfully useful. Not so hard to carry spare batteries (mine last 14+ hrs anyway), but it is useful to have map experience.
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Old 05-09-06, 03:26 PM
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You can never go wrong w/ a compass and a USGS topo IF YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THEM. I went nuts over orienteering in Boy Scouts and have no problems using these tools. An altimeter also is nice to use an additional tool to help you figure out where you are. But if you do not know how to use these tools (and there's no shame in that), then go w/ GPS. GPS systems have batteries, which can conk out on you, but then again, they're much easier and can be used on the fly.
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Old 05-09-06, 04:50 PM
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Anybody tryed to use their watch and the sun as a compass ?

https://www.users.bigpond.com/rdoolan/compass.html
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Old 05-09-06, 05:52 PM
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hell yeah wheely. That's what I used on my first tour in the mountains and I didn't get lost.
You don't even need a watch, the sun on its own is enough. I can usually tell the time by looking at the sun.
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Old 05-09-06, 08:47 PM
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re: bell compasses aren't accurate in my experience

I have a couple of these compasses. For casual day riding etc they work fine but I found that by about half way around Lake Huron my bell compass was always pointing at the headset no matter what direction I was actually headed.

I find that a good compass in the handlebar bag map case seems to work better. I place the compass as far from the handlebars as possible.

This is my experience, your's may vary.

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Old 05-09-06, 08:52 PM
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re: Getting lost

I generally have a minor adventure during most of my major tours where I get lost for a short period of time during one day of the tour.

So far I've enjoyed each experience and in two cases met some people and seen some things that I would never have experienced without the accidental adventure that came my way.

Getting back on track was pretty simple, look at a compass and as intersections, rivers etc appeared start narrowing down my actual location. Longest time being lost was about 20 minutes.

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Old 05-09-06, 09:30 PM
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...just wait until the time you know exactly where you are, but the map and road is all wrong...it happens navigating using a Delorme or a 15 minute map instead of a 7.5 or an actual USFS/BLM map. Green trails too, or an old datum map....you can find roads that were roads like the maps show, just fifty years ago.

nothing like finding bridges washed away, etc, from a road that 'goes' in the Gazatteer.

Getting 'lost' is relative and scrumptous in its possibility; also potentially dangerous.

(The first time I remember truly being lost i was 9 or 10 years old. I walked in a circle, in the woods, in the rain, and realized I was lost, by finding a stump i had passed 15 minutes earlier. I hid out in the stump hollow out of the rain, collected my wits, and 'dead reckoned' out of there by lining tree trunks up three in a row and walking the line out of the woods....)

but getting lost on a bike usually only involves a long detour and things you wouldn't ordinarily have seen or planned for....

lost in the woods on bikes on FS roads is a different matter entirely- I've got a tattoo of a map as a remberance of a particularily heinous 'getting lost' MTB episode fifteen years ago.

GPS is a funny thing. I have never owned one. Was up on a Mountain Rescue search a few years ago, a body recovery, on Mount Adams. We were descending and spotted some lightning strikes across the 'scape start a few fires. We call them into base, and got asked for position.

the kids with the GPS were busy powering up and ascertaining satellites while us old farts extrapolated the point by shooting a compass bearing and using a quad sheet.

We called in the fires' location before the GPS users even aquired our position.

Last edited by Bekologist; 05-09-06 at 11:00 PM.
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